Friday, September 22, 2017

Effortless fall cake- Pumpkin with maple cinnamon cream cheese frosting.

The weekend is nearly upon us, and I'm already planning the fall-ish goodies I can make and feed my family...

Last weekend, we were extremely blessed to spend time with my grandma, who had travelled to see us.  I got the privilege of hosting a nice, loud extended family gathering in my home and I have a few things to say about it.  When you gather seventeen people for food, a little planning is needed. (Like huge water dispensers with plastic cups and sharpies to mark everyone's names, along with an empty garbage and disposable dining supplies.) But here's the main thing... more people would do this if they had a few tips and tricks up their sleeve. For example, my son had a huge cross country meet the next day so I knew I'd be making pasta for him.  I decided to make two huge pans of lasagna ahead of time, and I assembled them in about ten minutes time, using no-cook gluten free lasagna noodles. (I did this all the day before) There are several dietary concerns in this crowd so I also made a small noodle-less lasagna using all the other same ingredients (meat sauce, mozzarella and parmesan) except I substituted zucchini strips for the noodles.

I delegated as people asked what they could bring, by taking several family members up on bringing apple cider, a green salad, and some garlic bread.  All I needed to prepare was the lasagna, and like I said, I don't fuss and bother, I do sauce with meat in it, cheese, noodles, repeat.  So easy and quick.  I wanted to make a special cake since this was an occasion to celebrate, and I'm a bit partial to bundt cakes in the fall.

Here's how easy this was.

I purchased a gluten free vanilla cake mix (I used Bob's)- any could work well, and prepared according to the instructions.  (Before mixing this, I buttered the bundt, and then used a tbsp. of the dry cake mix to "flour" the pan.  This is a trick I learned years ago and it works wonderfully. Do this over the bowl you're mixing the cake in, and an excess will simply fall back into it)  I also added half a can of pumpkin puree, and the spices it listed for a pumpkin pie, on the back of the can.  Those were 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger and1/4 tsp cloves.

I popped the cake into the oven and baked it.

For the frosting, I dumped two cans of cream cheese frosting into a bowl, and stirred in 1 tbsp. pure maple syrup, 1/8 tsp pure maple extract (don't skimp on this) and 1 tsp cinnamon.  You can add more if you need a more intense maple cinnamon flavor but this was perfect for us.  Once the cake was cooled and flipped onto a plate, I used a pastry bag (a spoon works well too) and piped lines of frosting back and forth over the top.  It looks almost fancy but it couldn't have been easier.  Almost homemade, but mostly just tweaked.  And yummy. 
I meant to snap a few "after being cut" images, but it was gone that very night... inhaled mostly, and I need to tell you this.  There are a few gluten free food haters in the crowd and they were all mumbling around mouthfuls of cake, "Seriously, this is gluten free???!!"

I also caught my uncle dishing up all the icing that had been left on the cake plate with his second slice.  So there ya go.  

This cake may actually unite families.  Or perhaps simply unite them over liking gluten free pumpkin cake with maple cinnamon cream cheese frosting. 

Either way, I'll take it. 

XOXO, 
Sasha 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Celebrating, my way

I recently had a birthday.  Birthdays are a pretty big deal in this family four pack.  We love to celebrate the heck out of each other.  Honestly, that's how everyone should approach birthdays in my opinion.  My people always try to make it extra special, especially my man.  This year was no exception.  He ordered me a gluten free birthday cake from a local bakery and ripped a cupboard off the wall for some open shelving (more on that soon I hope.) Everyone agreed to play Phase 10, and the rule was that nobody could skip the birthday girl. 

(So of course I won. And I felt no guilt either.)

There were also one minute dance parties in between shuffling for rounds, to 90's music.  (Those should always be a thing, don't you think?) Adrain totally caved to our peer pressure and did his signature dance move, the T-rex, in which he actually dances as though he is a T-rex dinosaur.  It is maybe my favorite thing ever.  (Why don't I have this on video tape?)
We also had what we dubbed "hat rounds" in which we all had to wear a crazy hat.  There was a cowboy hat, a couple of lacy bonnets, a beret, a purple velvet hat, and a George Washington hat.  (There was also a George Washington costume, which got worn by two of the men of this house at various points, to my absolute delight.) (I also wore a tiara that my daughter handed me most of the afternoon and evening.  I had a revolving door of beloved friends popping in with treats and flowers and such, and not one of them seemed to find it odd that I had that on.) (Which tells you everything you need to know about my friends.  I read a quote once that said, "Show me your friends and I'll tell you who you are."  Yup.)





I'm not sure if you're considering hosting a small, celebratory gathering soon, but this was such a low-stress event, I can't recommend it enough.  Honestly, one of the things I love, is the easy, effortless casual feel this kind of night has.  For dinner, we made two giant cheese trays for easy nibbles. Everyone always loves this, and it takes minutes to put together.  We did one at each end of the table, placed crackers into small buckets from the grocery store, and let people dish and help themselves on tiny plates.  Olives, cashews, sliced meats, various cheeses, crackers and savory jams rounded out the evening alongside some pink champagne for me, and wine for the other adults.  It was such a fun party from start to finish.  This was definitely my kind of celebration! 

XOXO, 
Sasha 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Currently...

Hello Lovelies...

Happy September to you all.  We are still experiencing a heat wave in the Pacific Northwest so it doesn't yet feel like fall is "right around the corner" but I know it is, and my boots are ready!  I even bought some ingredients for a pumpkin spice bundt cake so stay tuned because I'll share the recipe once it cools down enough to turn the oven on again.

We've been getting settled into school starting and I've been struggling (as always) to find the family rhythm of routine again.  It's been so fun watching my kiddos drive off together, rather than take a school bus.  I sure love having them in the same school, and on the same time schedule this year!  I've been making it a point to focus on all of the things I have to be thankful for, rather than what is difficult or challenging. 

I'm working hard to journal my simple thankfuls on Instagram, because those small things can be such a joy if I only have eyes to see them.  It's easy to get really bogged down by the daily "must do's" and "what if's" instead of focusing on the good, the blessed, and see the peace in the moment, of the story that's been planned out by the Creator.  I keep my simple thankfuls journal, as a way to daily, turn my focus onto the good.  Lately, the verse about being weary and heavy laden has swirled in my head and I know that I'm not meant to carry such heavy loads.  God promises to give us rest if we give our burdens over.  Finding ways to be thankful in all things is a practical way for us to do that....and in return, we get peace and rest. 


With my kids back in school again, I walked around tweaking and cleaning the other day.  It had been a long time since I had incorporated a "currently" post, so this is sort of along those lines.  I spent an entire day painting and touching up all of the white in our home... trim, cabinets, doors, etc. That is the reality of living in a white home.  It does require upkeep in order to look fresh and clean.  I decided it was also time for some new kitchen hardware.  I'm slowly replacing knobs and handles and I'll be sharing those with you soon, as that is such an easy way to bring your space up to a more current feeling. 

In my office, early bits of fall are appearing, with this jar of pheasant feathers.  It was so pretty and simple, I wanted to share this as one of my current loves.  The jar was from Ikea several years ago, but I'm pretty sure they still carry them.  The feathers came from Michael's also years ago, but they always have them as well. 

We are currently loving this football schedule and it's a really good idea if you've got some fans in your home! (The chalk door was getting so banged up that it needed a repaint, and I decided to go back to all white, rather than another coat of chalk paint.) I love these small rolls of masking paper from Sherwin Williams (about $3-5) because they come in different widths and are perfect for hanging.  I strung mine with a strip of cream leather on a command hook and used a chalk pencil for the schedule.  My boys really love it and keep track of wins and losses on it.  I love it because it's pretty.  Truth. 

I'm  a little bit obsessed with this entire corner.  The corn husk wreath gets all the heart eyes from me.  I honestly think I may find a place to keep it up year round, but would that be weird?  It is a corn husk wreath... might get all dusty.  Anyway.  I made it after seeing it on Martha Stewart's site. 

Honestly.

I wanted to throw it all out a window about eleventy-hundred times while making it.  She makes everything sounds so easy!  It's not.  And it's messy.  And I had third degree burns all from my hot glue gun.  But... just look at it...

You can search for the diy on her site but it's not very instructional.  All I can tell you is that it's such an inexpensive craft.  The straw wreath form was $3.  The corn husk packages were about $2/ea and I grabbed two from the Mexican food aisle at the grocery store and had tons left.  I already had a spray bottle of water, glue gun and straight pins.  It took about two hours to make, and was definitely trial and error until I got going, then I had it figured out and it went like clock work.  It's mostly about spraying and shaping, pinning, and then gluing when dry.  And then cleaning up massive mess once done. Ha!


Another current love.  Nibble dinners.  We are so busy, this is the perfect late summer, early fall weekend meal.  Still so warm outside that we're grilling, and not using the oven so we do a lot of meat and cheese platters.  I've searched Pinterest so many times and there are many easy combos for pulling nibbles out of the fridge and pantry and feeding your people.  Easy and I love that. (This olive dish was from Amazon and I am pretty passionate about my love for this dish. Ha!)
I am currently loving this good idea.  Yoplait has a new yogurt out called "Oui" and it comes in the most darling, tiny French jars.  I bought a bunch, (made Adrain eat the yogurt) and then peeled labels off, washed them and they are perfect for tea lights! They aren't flat on the bottoms so the tealights can be tricky.  (I don't like adding sand to every glass vessel, so I light a candle, drip wax in the middle and then adhere my tealight to that, to center them. That works okay until they get too hot.  Maybe Yoplait will heart of this idea and start making them flat for candles...)

Now this is a diy that isn't actually a diy but I'll give you the general idea on how to make these yourself.  It's my current obsession.  Leather earrings.  Joann's sells scrap leather packs and these three actually came together.  I loved the combos of gray, redish leather and a textured sparkly pale shade.
I purchased earring hooks (no idea what they are called) and jump rings and cut out tear drop shapes in varying sizes.  You'll want to create a template on paper first for all three sizes, then trace and cut out with sharp scissors. (Tip, if you fold the paper in half, you get a symmetrical shape.)  I used a large needle to make holes for the jump rings at the tops, closed the jump rings over the earring hooks.  After that, I cut a fringe around the bottoms of each leather drop to finish them off.  I love them because they are light statement earrings.
So easy to create! 
I'm hoping the weather cools a bit soon, because I'm so ready to jump ahead into nightly soups and crock pot meals and I can't wait to blog about all things fall...  I think everyone loves Fall.  It seems like the most perfect season, sprinkled with pumpkin everything.  I am like a moth to a flame when it comes to fall flavors.  I even broke out my knitting the other night.  However, it's awfully easy to get trapped into always looking forward and never being here, currently.  You see quotes all over the place about not looking back and I'm sure that's a thing for a lot of people, but honestly there needs to be more quotes about not jumping into the next season too soon because most of us are guilty of this (myself included) and then we miss the now! I'm sharing two late summer/early fall loves in this post, but cautiously, because  I feel as though social media is inundated with constant looking too far forward.  I think it causes us undue stress and more weariness and burdens to be honest.  We can't wait for fall, and people are breaking out fake pumpkins in August and starting home tours before the leaves are even changing.  We can't wait for the holidays and there are Christmas decorations for sale before Halloween! (WTFruitcake!!??)  It's easy to not be currently present... I read a quote the other day that stopped me still.  It said, "It is a mistake to look too far ahead.  Only one link in the chain of destiny can be handled at a time." (Supposedly by)- Churchill

I'm just as excited about fall as the next person, (if not more) but I'm working on being here, now, and being thankful in this here and now.  I crave peace alongside appropriately timed anticipation, like it was when we were kids.  We vaguely knew fall was coming, and with it, Halloween candy, pumpkins, thanksgiving and such, but were still busy playing hard outside while the days were warm. Life is hurtling forward on me, and I find myself digging my heels in a bit  to slow the passage of time so I can anticipate it and savor it a bit more.  Losing my daddy slowly, day by day to Alzheimer's and having teens so close to flying the nest sure makes me appreciate this very moment a lot more. 

Don't let the world push pumpkin everything on you too soon dear ones.  Savor today with me....

XOXO,
Sasha

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Motherhood now, plus adding luxe to your room.

Well hello to you, after a sweet month of absence!  I so enjoyed my time away from blogging, but I've got a little list going, of some fall posts so please stay tuned and pop back in now and again over the coming months. 

Today, my children returned to school for their sophomore and freshman years.  I sat through the parent orientation meetings, feeling like an old pro, having just been there last year, listening to the same things.  And I want to share something amazing that happened to me while I was there.  A mama next to me started chatting with me, and as we got to talking, we made common connections, as women do, and one thing led to another, with me sharing my mothering story with her.  She was in the exact same overwhelmed shoes I'd stood in, only seven or eight years ago.  I was able to share my story which at one point led us to some tears and hand holding.  (You'd have to know me) The tears were hers, but they were tears of joy and encouragement from the sharing of my story! I couldn't have imagined that moment a decade ago. Not in a million years.  Never discount that God places each of us directly on the path He wants us to walk, and that He never wastes our pain.  I believed that from the early days of standing up to my neck in the trenches of young motherhood and I believe it still, much more so, having seen it first hand. Isn't that precious?  Her story was so close to mine, I could have written it for her... and I was able to encourage her what could come after for her because of where I was...  What a treasure.
 Now, changing gears because I actually came to share a few bedroom updates that I am loving this week and they couldn't have been completed at a lovelier time with school just beginning  (This mama needs her haven to escape into!)  I want to really encourage you to make your master bedroom a haven and it's so important to me, that I've posted about it several times.  Last month, I decided that I wanted to stencil a wall in here.  I was looking to add that lovely luxe touch  when you enter a beautifully designed, high end hotel. The linens are all bleached white and crisp, the surfaces are clean and pretty and you breath deeply as you set your bags down.  That touch. 

I couldn't find something simple in my price range, so I created my own with a blank stencil and exacto knife from the craft store.  (I don't recommend this at all. Don't be cheap like me, save yourself the grief and pay the $40+ to get a nice huge one for yourself okay?)  Also, you need to fully understand the commitment here if you go with a stencil.  It's a lot like cutting bangs.  Really think it through before hand.  In my case, I couldn't find wall paper that I liked or could afford and commit to, and I wanted a really specific subtle shimmer on my walls so a stencil was a good option.  My walls are painted Revere Pewter and I love this color.  I merely wanted to highlight one wall in a unique way and I didn't want to go overboard on the feminine effect so I kept it geometric. I used a silver metallic paint and small paint brush for mine, both found at the craft store.  The paint was perfect for what I wanted and blended perfectly against the Revere Pewter.
It took me a ridiculous amount of time because I had the brilliant idea that I should trace the pattern and then paint it in.  (Again, don't do this.  I had to, because I needed things overlapping yet level with such a small stencil and it just about killed me y'all.) I guess what doesn't kill you makes you stronger however, because I couldn't love it more and it was exactly what I had in my head.  I love the way the light catches on the silver paint, in the evening.  It's cozy and beautiful and even my man loves it and told me so.  (I shared on Instagram that he isn't a guy who cares over much about how I decorate, and I love this about him because it means I get to pretty much do whatever I want and I don't have to fight his opinions. But oh man do I love it when he notices and really likes something I did!)

He did agree to bring me home roses as my treat for completing this space.  I was hanging off a ladder while he ran out to Costco and I may have hugely hinted that he should come home with pink or white roses because I really needed a reward to look forward to...  Which brings me to this.  Put flowers, candles, twinkle lights, soft blankets, fancy pillows, and inspiring artwork in your bedroom. Just do it, and you can thank me later.  Who knew Costco roses in an inexpensive grocery store vase could bring so much pretty to a room? (I knew.)  

They are on their way out, as I had to peel the outer green petals off this morning but I had to snap one more shot of their last lovely day or two in this room.  (And seriously, blush pink roses with pale green outer petals? My word. There couldn't be a prettier rose.  I normally don't like roses, but these are definitely my favorites of all time!)
I notice that the prettier and cozier I make it, the more crowded it gets in here... so do be aware of that! 

I enjoy sneaking in here to read as kids start winding down for the evening and I notice that with the soft lights, the candles and calm, I get a lot of visitors with sweet and heartfelt conversations.  I do think that is what it's all about.  This mama journey is pretty precious. (I didn't always feel that way.  Plenty of guilt for not feeling that way too, but I am so deeply thankful I get to have each day as a fresh do-over space in mothering!)   


I had to end with this shot of my two hoodlums.  Gosh I adore them to pieces and the young adults they are becoming!  Joe is a strapping sophomore this year and Ava is a sweet freshman. I love their hearts, their friend choices, and their love for each other.  I told them to laugh here... which of course leads to real laughs.  (Hang in there young mamas and choose to laugh a lot.  It's truly a KEY!)  They drove away to school together, in Joe's truck.  I almost cried. Joe bought my daddy's truck now that my dad is in an Alzheimer's home and it's been incredibly sweet to see Joe working hard to pay it off, as well as appreciating that it belonged to his grandpa.  He has been the closest grandchild to his grandpa so I love that he is bumping along down the road in daddy's truck. 

It was a morning full of sweetness to sip on.  Counting my thankfuls,  

XOXO,
Sasha

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Delighting in Humor with teens...

 Just the other day, I was stopped by a sweet mom of littles.  She asked me what the secret to liking teenagers was, because like most of us, she had heard all kind of stories

Okay so a couple of things here. 

Firstly, wait, what? 

How did I get to be this sweet young thing's poster board mom for liking teenagers?  I think my answer was mostly confusion-driven, because I am the farthest thing there has ever been, to an expert on anything kid-wise... However, I am also the first to say, "Hey FRIENDS, gather...  this actually worked for me and if it can help you, take it and run with it."  (I'm hoping that she approached me because of the latter and not a misconception from the former.)

And also, the jury isn't out yet about how it will all turn out for my own, so mentorship moments are about the most terrifying things in the world.

And also, even though the jury isn't out about my own kids, doesn't mean I should fear any kind of mentorship moments because duh, it could go sideways for anyone at any given time.

(You can see, I'm a bit double-minded about this whole thing.)

But actually that's kind of how I answered her.
But let me back up. The thing she got right about me, was that I love, adore, and can't almost hardly get enough of teenager-type-people.

I always loved the middle school years before I became a mom.  Adrain and I did a short stint as middle school youth group leaders before we became parents.  It was a roller coaster kick in the pants and we loved every moment of it. (Babies and toddlers weren't really ever my thing but give me hormones every time. I know, right?) The sitting on a church doorstep with an angry and emotional girl, listening to her pour our her little heart over friends, boys, parents... you name it, I was all in.  Flash forward to my own kids becoming teens and realizing that if you feed them, they will ALL come.  Even if all you're feeding them is popcorn. Nothing in life thrills me more than a house full of their obnoxious sounds, smells, messes and jokes.  (And also, nothing drives me bonkers more than a house full of teenage sounds, smells, messes and jokes.  The struggle is real.)

We have a house where adoption is a real, non-real thing.  In that we "adopt" them all, and a few of them literally stay for days on end, eat all our food, sleep everywhere, do their laundry here and all but get their mail here.  For those without intact families, we adore this and it's a pay-it-forward thing for us, because my husband came from high dysfunction in early life, and several families adopted him in for years as a teen.  That said, there is really only one thing that has helped me love this season. And I use the word love very seriously.  From the depth of my toes, I love this season. 

That one thing... is humor.  Honestly, teenagers are perhaps the funniest creatures on the planet.  Sometimes they tell me stories of their days and I find myself clutching my stomach, rolling on the kitchen floor. (This is an actual story.) The way they respond is so flippity.  To each other, to situations. It is screaming hysterical. Especially when they include impersonations and movie lines to perfection.  Hanging with teenagers is equal parts; remembering how it was for you, guiding them,  boosting them full of genuine confidence, and delighting in them.  Absolute delight can't be faked, and trust me, a teenager can sniff out fake like nobody's business. I tend to believe that delighting in anything or anyone can be learned. It's mostly about me, not them.  For example, I learn it best, when I set my phone down and listen- thus giving them the gift of my time.  I learn delight when I make a choice over something they say- I can generally go two ways-  1) Get flat out annoyed or 2) Allow it to sink in, hit my funny bone and burst out as I laugh.  (I've noticed that whenever you laugh, when you could also have gotten royally annoyed, it dissolves whatever underlying tension teens almost always have, that can flip into anger and disrespect at any given moment.) 

Choosing laughter as I learn to delight in these stormy little relationships, is my go-to.  Sometimes I do get annoyed. Sometimes I have to call them on something and we have to go down that road. But mostly... I laugh.  (With them (key) or because of them (also key) but never at them.)  Because what they say is witty, intelligent, worthy of my notice and enjoyment.  It's amazing what that little choice does.  The mood and tone it creates is my favorite.  Our home regularly rocks with laughter when it's filled with teenagers. 



And that's my only secret. It doesn't fix everything but it eliminates and prevents a lot!  I'd love to hear how you have found ways to delight in the teenagers in your life! 

And speaking of teenagers... my firstborn is now licensed to drive.  I'm crazy proud.  I'm crazy panicky.  I'm both.  All.the.time.  Ha!  I had to include this photo since many of you remember this little tyke and all that he's conquered in his amazing life so far.  What a great young man he is becoming.  You young mama's in the thick of it with a journey that seems daunting... take heart.  God wastes nothing in our stories and the stories he gives us through our kids. Those challenges are all part of His plan even on the days it seems impossible and you feel all wrong for it.   

We are about to leave for the mountains for a glorious family vacation, hence the funny little sign I made for my kids, pictured above in this post.  I'm busy getting the house all ready for our missionary friends who will be staying here while we're away, as well as packing as light as possible.  I'm excited but also I don't like bears and there will definitely be bears.  Y'all can pray for us if you want!  I can't wait to come back and share the beauty of Banff, Alberta with you! 

XOXO,
Sasha


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Downsizing your wardrobe- One year later...

 As promised, (for the past year or so) I've been talking about the ten-item wardrobe concept, and how it's changed my life.  (I've probably had more private email convos with many of you about this topic than any other!)

In this post, I'm including sources where I am able, as well as a couple of not so great images of my closet so you can sort of tangibly see what I've done. At one point in my life, like many women, I had a closet stuffed with clothing I mostly didn't wear, and I've downsized it hugely!  About a year and a half ago, I got rid of about two thirds of what I once owned, re-evaluated my style and remaining items, and strategically filled holes in my wardrobe staples over the course of last year.  But let me back up... I came across Jennifer L. Scott's Daily Connoisseur books (The Madame Chic series) on the recommendation of a friend and they have become some of my very favorite books ever!!  I won't detail reasons for downsizing a wardrobe to only what you love, wear regularly, or feel great in, but DO go and read her book (20 Style secrets).  I highly recommend it.  I loved her viewpoint and it has really impacted me.  In fact, I've watched the overflow of this type of thinking change all areas of my life where purchases are made.  It seemed to take about a year to fully curate my wardrobe into what is now streamlined, which is why I am just now getting to this post.  I focused on quality, polished pieces that fit well.  The reason it took me a full year, is because I really found myself thinking it out, proceeding slowly, season by season, and also -quality clothing can be expensive.

I used to save items that I might want to someday wear if just the right occasion happened, or save certain outfits for special.  Jennifer's words about how we're special enough occasions to wear something polished and nice any time, even if we're home all day, changed my thinking.  When you look presentable (and yoga pants only count if you're working out in them), you feel good and that changes everything!  Just read her books okay? You'll thank me.

Practically speaking, here's how I started. I followed her advice and tried every item on. Yes, EVERY item. It is imperative that you do this, so that you can evaluate stains, fit, cut, color, wear and tear, ask if you're comfortable, is the item your style, is it flattering to your unique body type (whether or not it's a trendy style) and finally, do you find yourself adjusting or pulling at it to make it better? I actually wore a few things half a day to determine this, though most things only took moments to evaluate. Once you answer all of those fit questions, it's much easier to decide if it's a keeper or not. Next, evaluate what you have left.  I even begun a Pinterest board to see what I tended to like and quickly identified a style I was drawn to which helped me.  I then used that to create the bones (or core items) of my wardrobe, using what I had, and made a list of items I'd like to purchase to complete that.  (She speaks in her book about being free to delete items from your wardrobe even if you spent large amounts of money on them.  Why keep it just because it was expensive?  On the front end going forward, it's good to ask yourself all of those fit and style questions before spending money on an item and this has been really helpful to me in the dressing rooms!

I love how Jennifer talks about not getting hung up on the amount of items you have, but on what you actually wear. So, you may not be a ten-item wardrobe girl exactly, but that's okay if you wear fifteen items in regular rotation, in a season. In her books, Jennifer talks about choosing your core items (your ten-ish everyday items) your basics, your extras (things like cardigans and basic tees or tanks) and special occasion items ( like cocktail dresses etc.) Every woman is unique so I imagine every woman's take on this is also unique and I love that. I keep my off season items in labelled baskets on the shelf  in my closet, and the current season hanging and wearable. For example, I currently have all my summer items hanging in the closet, but my winter items are in a bin alongside a fall/spring bin.  (I may share what each of those seasons look like as I switch out my clothing because I've found Jennifer's videos on this to be really helpful in guiding me and I'm happy to share what I came up with if that is something you'd like to see. Let me know in comments!)

I identified my personal style which she encourages you to do in her books, and I'd say that mine is "polished classic with a preppy twist."  I love preppy button downs, and solid cashmere sweaters with blazers in the winter, denim dresses with ballet flats in the spring and fall, simple a-line dresses as well as solid tanks with quality leather sandals and easy, clean-lined shorts in the summer. This idea of streamlining to ten items, translates into outerwear, footwear and accessories as well.  Once you begin really thinking about the way you want to present yourself, you'll find yourself truly considering your purchases and how they work together.  My color palette continues to be neutrals and solids that work together and the occasional pop of fuchsia or cobalt and you can see a few of my favorite summertime go-to outfits below. 

Additionally, once you have identified your personal style, you might find yourself gravitating toward certain shops that broadcast your style well.  (I personally love Ann Taylor.  It has to be a top favorite of mine.  I also really like Talbots, Boden, and though the quality isn't as fine, I do love the deals you can often find at Marshall's.)
Navy scalloped shorts- Talbots, this season
Boyfriend Oxford stripe button down- Gap
Leather wedges- old, Sundance (women come up to me constantly about these sandals)
Large pearl studs- Kohls, a year ago? (I wear them almost daily)
Straw hat- old, not sure source. My daughter hates this hat, but I still like it.  
Navy blouse- Marshall's (I can't tell you how much I adore this top.)
Denim cuff shorts- old, not sure source.
Leather sandals- Eddie Bauer, a year ago.
Necklace- local boutique
Dark wash skinnies- Democracy brand (LOVE.  Wish I had bought a couple pairs!)
Black ruffled tank- Ann Taylor (Seriously a favorite that gets worn once a week.)
Straw hat- Marshall's
Tassel Necklace - made by me (JoAnn's tassels, cut to shorter length, clear nail polish coating the weird chalk-coated rock, and strung on a chain. Boom!)

Now for a quick closet tour. (Please excuse the poor photos- it's dark and difficult to photograph in here, but this will give you a bit of an idea.) We have moved our dresser into our bedroom (see previous posts) and I store all my underthings, socks, camisoles and pajamas in that.  In the dresser, I also keep two pairs of yoga pants, four sweatshirts of varying weights, and a few tees and tanks strictly for working out.)

I have three pairs of summer bottoms stacked in here- Denim shorts, navy shorts, and a black skirt. I have five handbags in all- four are pictured here, plus my camera bag. (A cross body, special black purse that was a gift from my sis in law from Italy, a gray bucket bag and a wonderful leather bag.) I have the two columns in this cubby to the left, and my husband has the two to the right.  I have four pairs of pants- black skinnies, denim skinnies, short bootcut, and long bootcut which I wear year-round.  I also have three light cardigans that I keep as core basics year-round.)
On the left side of my closet, I keep party dresses (I have two- one long and a cocktail dress), outerwear, and two current season career dresses, plus a blazer.  Over to the right a bit you'll see the bulk of my core wardrobe.  I keep several blousy tanks, and light tops, that coordinate with the summer bottoms, along with a few dresses, and that's it. My necklaces hang beside my clothing to the far right.
You can see the out of season bins, which I store on the shelf, each holding about ten to twelve items.  I also used some glass blocks and pre-cut shelves from Home Depot, for my shoe storage. I have three winter pairs in a bin on the shelf, that I will switch out with sandals as the weather cools.  Not pictured here are a pair of black leather flip flops and some tennis shoes. 

I have a couple of winter core basics that I plan to purchase in the fall, such as a black crew neck sweater, career suit and wedges.  Other than that, I am totally set with a year round "ten-item" core wardrobe.  I do laundry once a week, but often hand wash a top in the sink and hang it to dry at night if I want an item before laundry day.  I do still love to shop but I try to only fill holes from items that need replacing. After a year of doing this, I've found the overall approach of only owning what you love, wear and feel great in, is extremely freeing.  (Also, not going crazy amassing dozens of outfits, and caring for all of them, while neglecting over half of them, is freeing too!)

Is this something you could see yourself doing in your own closet?  Do you have any questions or thoughts about this? Please feel free to leave them in comments below and I'll do my best to respond.

XOXO,
Sasha

Monday, July 10, 2017

My New Favorite Camera

 I worked so hard researching for about a year.  Asking people with amazing photos what they were using. I debated- Nikon or Canon?  I researched some more... plotted, saved, and finally made the plunge.  I was ecstatic and read the manual from cover to cover.  I used that Canon Rebel for a couple of years and literally wore the poor thing and it's little kit lens out, learning photography. I purchased an inexpensive 50mm for it, at the recommendation of a professional photographer and loved it because it stretched me and taught me new things about photography.  After a few years of blogging, I was finally ready to upgrade and settled (after more months of review reading and research) on a Canon 7D with a macro lens and a very nice 50mm with amazing glass. I loved it.  But...it weighed a ton and my neck and back would ache when we took it out on day trips or hikes.  Enter the age of amazing smartphone (and Samsung galaxy's) gorgeous phone cameras that took high res shots that rivaled those of my big camera.  I found that I could even achieve a nice bokeh and manipulate the settings to some degree.  It was by far lighter and easier to bring along anywhere... so my camera sat in the bag and began to come out less and less. 

I did the occasional photo shoot with my kids and friends, but that was about it.  I felt wasteful and I didn't like that. One day, I saw someone talking about "mirror-less" micro four thirds cameras, the lightweight wonders, and I started thinking about changing my gear.  For another solid year, I read review after review, watched too many videos and chewed on the idea of selling off all my Canon equipment.  I finally jumped, listing it all on Craig's list and waited.  Once it was all sold off, I used the funds to purchase an Olympus Pen-F, and NOW I shall tell you my own little review because I've heard a ton of people in my life say the exact same thing... "I hardly ever use my big camera anymore- even on vacations... it's so heavy!" 
The Olympus Pen-F camera.  (By the way this review is all me, no affiliations, just a product I love to pieces and think many of you will flip over, if you're in the market.)  Just take a moment and soak it's prettiness in with me okay? It looks like it belongs on the shelf with my vintage cameras.  But it's so much more than a pretty face! It's light, all metal and solidly made, and you can spend hours researching reviews from photographers that know gallons more than I do, including technical videos that detail it's capabilities.  But, I do street shooting and shooting for the love of it, and I can tell you what I think from that perspective.  The color.  Oh my!  I always heard that Fuji and Olympus left Nikon and Canon in the dirt when it came to color. I'm quickly seeing why. I've included a few shots from my first official weekend with this little camera, and no edits other than watermarking and resizing for this blog, were done. 
So my favorite things- there are so many, that I'll choose just a few to share.  There is a WiFi capability.  What I mean is that, I snap a photo and if I want to Instagram it or text it to someone, I tap the app on my phone, and the word "WiFi" on my camera screen, and it transfers in seconds.  It has a flip screen that allows you to take a selfie, or recordings while seeing the screen. I used this while trying to snap a photo in my last post, where I was holding the little shell ring-dish,(above) but wanted to photograph it.  It also has gorgeous movie-like recording ability- I took a video of us driving through the mountains this weekend, with music on the radio and it looked and sounded straight out of a movie. (I'm not sharing it because I deleted it on accident. Hey, I said I'd only had it a week and I'm still learning what buttons to press. Ha!) It has built in art filters (which I'll probably never use).  It has a digital viewfinder which I've never used before and that took some adjusting, but now I actually really like it.  I also like the auto feature that senses when your eye is in the viewfinder, vs. using the flip screen to take your photos.  When your eye hits the viewfinder sensor, the screen flips off, and vice-versa.  Super handy and high tech.

On a technical side, I've decided that I want the soft-shutter button that screws in just like the vintage models, and It was about $6 item, which I've ordered and am waiting excitedly for. (I know. A $6 camera button makes me giddy.)  I may also have taken my manual to Office Max and had it spiral bound.  I totally and unashamedly geeked out over this thing.
I also ordered the leather camera strap from "b.still," on Amazon.  I big time heart it. I've snapped a few portraits and they were candid but again, the color... beautiful. I zoomed way in on Joe's eyes before I resized it for you here, and I could see myself.  He has such beautiful green-gray eyes. I love how the camera seeks out eyes for it's focus points.  I'm using a lens that is the equivalent of a 35mm and I really like it.  It's a prime lens, and I'd love a little pancake lens or a big zoom eventually but they aren't inexpensive so I'll need to budget and plan!  (This image of Joe, for those who like the details; Shot in A Mode 1/50s f 2.8 500ISO)
 The colors are going to keep blowing me away.  The site we were standing at was just this beautiful and I figured there was no way it would translate, but it did.  (This image shot in A Mode 1/800s f7.1 500ISO)

 I am loving what this camera does with light.  I snapped this without even thinking about focus points and such, and it perfectly captured the morning light that was filtering across our breakfast table. (This image shot in A Mode; 1/400 f2.8 500ISO)
 I don't have a macro lens so I can't get quite as close as I'd often like with this lens, but really pleased with the camera's capabilities in spite of my lens capabilities. (This image 1/60 f4.0 500ISO)
(This image taken as the sun was sinking, 320/s f4.5 500ISO)

So.  All in all, I'm going to drive you and everyone crazy now with photos until the new wears off... and I hope it never does!! 

XOXO,
Sasha

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Pretty, DIY shell ring dish

Over the 4th of July, my sweet husband continued a little family tradition by booking a short stay at a local-ish resort, Semiahmoo. Its always been a favorite get-away spot for us as a family, and also a weekend or date night.  I probably thanked my husband a million times for this getaway, over the past week. And, I didn't even bring my phone with me!  I challenged myself with extreme rest because I don't think I've ever needed it more, and you guys... I can't begin to tell you what that feels like.  If you've never actually left your home behind for several days, I encourage you to!  At first it feels almost scary... then you begin to relax and something crazy happens-  You become truly unplugged and engaged.  We love this resort-always have.  You can literally sit on the beach, sip a cocktail and watch the tide go out, while keeping an eye on Canada.

They set everything up for family playfulness, and there were groups of generations there playing together.  Grandparents, teens, toddlers and babies.  It was delightful.  There are long stretches of beach to walk, shells to find, rocks to skip, great blue herons fishing (they seriously take my breath away every time), nightly bonfires on the beach for s'mores, live music, croquet on the lawn alongside several other fun outdoor games, gorgeous sunsets, delicious restaurants with local offerings, and huge, cozy chairs snuggled up beside massive fireplaces where my daughter parked herself to read for hours on end.  Board games get scattered all over the place as people rest and play them and the entire resort is decorated with a relaxed, yet luxe, coastal vibe that makes you breathe deeply.  There also happens to be a great outdoor swimming pool and spa.  In case you need that sort of thing. You can bring your own bottle of wine and wander the beach in search of the perfect log to sit on while the sun dips.  There are weathered wooden rockers on a big patio so you can read an entire novel while your man sits beside you soaking up sun.  (We did that.) We honestly never want to leave when we are there.  Crisp white linens, and squishy pillows, a view of the ocean, watching the boats come in, harbor seals jumping off the dock and kayaks to rent.  It's beyond anything.  (I almost didn't want to share it with you because then you'll go and it will get too crowded for me. Ha!)

What we have loved as our kids have gotten older, is the fun freedom to roam there.  They had a blast doing their own thing and then we'd meet up for meals and beach time, etc.  One morning, Joe left and came back with some big clam shells that were softly sand-washed and beautiful as a little love-offering to his mama.  I knew I wanted to do something special with the biggest one.  I decided that a treasure like that should be used daily.  I went to the craft store and found some metallic blue paint, coated the inside and now have the most special ring dish for my dresser!
I loved this color.  It was called "ice blue." 

DIY:
First, I washed the shell with a mixture of bleach and dish soap, letting it soak for about an hour before gently brushing clean.  I rinsed it well and let it air dry overnight.
Then, I coated it with paint, going all the way to the edges.  I gave it a second coat to smooth it even more, and let that dry. 
Done.  Couldn't be simpler!



It looks so perfect here on my dresser!  Looking at it, makes me smile and remember my son's precious and happy face as he brought it in to the hotel room for me.  They always say that the best things in life are free. My love language is gifts, and for me, it's about his expression as he waited to show me his little pile of shells, collected with me in mind, his excitement over his finds, and I love it, because I love him. I'll treasure it always.

I realized that it would actually be a beautiful and thoughtful (and inexpensive) little gift idea!  If you can't gather your own shells, you can always find them this time of year, at craft stores.  Wouldn't this be a sweet gift to create and combine with some pretty earrings or something, for a friend or family member?

XOXO,
Sasha


 P.S. Soon, I'll be sharing about the new camera I'm using.  If you follow me on Instagram, you've already seen it... but I'm so in love.  That post and a clothing one are coming next week if all goes well!